Recipes for Nonsurvival

The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
Reviewed by Esperanza Godot

Taken from: "New Libertarian", Volume V, Number III, April 1988.
Write - 1515 West MacArthur Blvd., #19, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

This version corrected and updated, April, 2002, after conversations with Esperanza.


This book has been called a "Manual of terror" by Max Geltman, writing in National Review (July 22, 1971). I find this phrase aptly descriptive, but not in the same sense that Mr. Geltman would have us believe.

This "cookbook" consists of three basic parts: an introduction by Professor Bergman entitled "Anarchism Today," and two much longer sections by William Powell on drug and explosive manufacturing.

If ever there were an example of Orwellian doublespeak, this is it! "Anarchism Today" is basically an interpretation of the philosophic roots of anarchism, awkwardly coupled with sketchy references to current events. Almost all of the intellectuals discussed are from the nineteenth century; and there is virtually no mention of the writings from 1930 to present. This may be expected from someone who appears to have briefly studied the topic while at college during the 1920's, and thereafter relied only on superficial newspaper accounts. Bergman should have been aware of Albert Jay Nock, for example, and anarchists today are certainly aware of Murray Rothbard, Karl Hess, etc.

Bergman considers Nihilism to be a form of Anarchism, and Anarchism a form of radical revolutionism. He interprets Marxism in an anarchistic light, and correctly suggests that Communist governments today are feudal/ reactionary. However, his emphasis on the Marxist element in anarchist intellectual tradition is clearly one-sided. A more through and fair analysis can be found in Native American Anarchism (1932) by Eunice Minette Schuster.

Bergman's emphasis on the Nihilistic and destructive aspects of Anarchism I find disturbing. This emphasis seems to arise from the axiom that the State is all, so to oppose the State is to oppose everything. Anarchists do not have to propose a concrete alternative because that would be authoritarian.

The rest of this book consists mainly of drug and explosive recipes relayed to us by William Powell. His motivation for doing so is supposedly to allow the "silent majority" access to information which he claims only the radical groups now possess. The idea of a "silent majority" comes from classical Greek literature and in that context referred to the dead who are the real majority. If you follow the steps outlined in these recipes, you may soon join them! The Library Journal (March 15, 1971) puts it this way:

"Much of it is so sketchy as to be harmless, but there are a number of booby traps still for the nitwit who wishes to try them. There are drug making recipes...that may make one very ill...there are also a number of stunts which could backfire on the idiot who tries them."

Lets get down to specifics.

Ed Rosenthal told me that he had spent a lot of time trying to track down the rumors of pot growing in New York sewers. Well, I just may have stumbled on the origin of the "New York White" rumors. Despite what Powell may think, plants are not as adaptable as alligators and need light to grow. Another choice quote: "...strangely enough, insects ignore marijuana and do no harm." Strange indeed.

The DEA has a Precursor Control Program watch list. This means that if you buy large quantities of the common precursors to illegal chemicals, the Federal Government may take an interest in your activities. Several of the chemicals on this lists are used in Mr. Powell's LSD recipe, such as Acetonitrile, Trifluoroacetic Anhydride, Dimethylformamide, and Diethylamine. Benzene is also on the list, and my also arouse the interest of the EPA because it is a known cancer-causing agent.

Much the same can be said of many of his other recipes, and in some cases the precursors are as hard to get as he final product. For instance, his recipe for DMT starts out with indole, which is quite hard to get. Much better methods using L-Tryptophan (available in most health-food stores) are covered in Synthesis (1973 - present).

Powell suggests ground up nutmeg for a psychedelic experience. Nutmeg has a poor dose/toxicity ratio! However, the oil extract of Nutmeg, containing myristicin, can be used in the synthesis of MMDA - a better and mellower high than MDA. See Journal of Psychedelic Drugs (Vol. 8, #4, October-December 1976).

On page 58 of Powell's cookbook, Nalline is described as "...a freak - a drug someone forgot to make illegal." Perhaps they forgot because Nalorphine is a powerful narcotic antagonist, which tents to produce violent convulsive reactions in morphine addicts. (See the Merck Index.)

For more information on drugs, see The clandestine Drug Laboratory Situation in the U.S. Journal of Forensic Sciences (January 1983, p. 18- c31.) This article, obligingly written by the DEA chief, reports that none of the 17 labs busted the previous year were successful in producing what was intended to be produced. The busted chemists were relying on recipes from popular "underground" drug manufacturing books. It was noted that such books contain errors which prevent the manufacture of the desired chemicals, while at the same time drawing the attention of government authorities because of the precursors recommended.

Let's now examine his recommendations for manufacturing explosives:

His methods for producing Mercury Fulminate is incomplete and dangerous. Between steps 2 and 3, the solution should be cooled. Do not breathe the fumes. See A Dictionary of Applied Chemistry by Sir Edward Thorpe.

Powell's recipe entitled "How to Make TNT" is also quite dangerous and incomplete. In step 1, mixing sulfuric acid and nitric acid will likely result in fulmination and red toxic fumes. Also the crude method he describes does not cover the removal of the Ortho-Dinitro groups. If this were not done, the TNT would be extremely unstable. However, they can be removed with great ease by heating the crude material with aqueous sodium sulfite. See Chemistry of Explosives by George Wright, University of Toronto, in Organic Chemistry (p. 974).

The description of picric acid does not sufficiently emphasize its unstable nature. For example, storing it in a cracked glass container may cause it to explode. See Thorpe's However, on page 120 he describes two relatively safer and easily obtainable chemicals (potassium bichromate and potassium permanganate) as very sensitive, unstable, and too hazardous to work with.

He does have a couple of pages on general safety precautions, but the language suggests that they have been lifted from a military manual. Also, he uses the German spelling for some chemicals. If you attempt to order chemicals from an American company using German spelling, your order would likely be looked at with suspicion.

The Anarchist Cookbook was originally published in 1971; the review by the Library Journal, which exposed these dangerous errors, came shortly thereafter. I wonder why it has gone through 26 printings without these errors being corrected. My theory is that Mr. Powell is not an anarchist, but in reality is spreading disinformation to potential enemies of the government. At the time of original publication, Mr. Powell was an unknown 21-year-old college freshman. Where did he get access to this "information"? He says, from radical friends on both the left and right.

The Minuteman Manual is listed in the bibliography. The original Minutemen were colonial American revolutionaries. In the '60's there was a radical offshoot of the John Birch Society called the Minutemen; they have since been disbanded by the FBI. It is not likely that the 1960's Minutemen would have handed out their manual to a long-haired 21-year-old college freshman. Also, the John Birch Society and the Minutemen are opposed to the United Nations, and Powell's father was a powerful bureaucrat in the UN propaganda ministry (see Newsweek April 12, 1971.) Things are getting curiouser and curiouser!

This same William Powell has also written a book entitled Saudi Arabia and its Royal Family (1982). It consists of interviews with members of the Saudi royal family and other observations gathered while teaching at the University of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It does not seem likely that the Saudi royal family would give such generous treatment to a real anarchist. Reading the Saudi book, I came across some interesting quotes (p. 17):

"Were something or someone to cut the flow of oil from the
Arabian Gulf, the result would be truly apocalyptic for the
United States, Western Europe, Japan, and much of the developing
world...In a worst case scenario, all gasoline available would go
to essential services such as the military, the police and fire
departments, and the transportation of foodstuffs. Most
nonessential businesses and industries would close. Unemployment
would skyrocket."

"All major cities would, in all probability, have to be placed under
martial law. Curfews would be enforced at gunpoint...Inflation
would metamorphose...into a lethal epidemic. We would enter a
wheelbarrow economy like that of Germany prior to Hitler's rise
to power."

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. While his pessimistic analysis does not take full account of the market's ability to conserve and switch to alternate fuels, I think a more important point is that Powell seems to believe that government is as essential as the transportation of foodstuffs, and that it can help solve the fuel crisis through the Draconian methods he describes. If governments were to run out of gas tomorrow, anarchists would be dancing in celebration.

(Mr. Powell's talk of martial law is not fantasy. Executive Order #11490, signed by Richard Nixon in October 1969, allows the president to assume dictatorial powers after declaring a "national emergency.")

It just doesn't add up, unless an alternative theory is developed to explain these anomalies. My attempts to get the other side of the story from the publisher were met with a stone wall of silence. My suggestion is that much of Powell's disinformation and influence may have come from the Trilateral Commission and/or the CIA. A U.S. Air Force combat controllers group studying guerilla warfare similarly concluded that the book is disinformation, probably CIA. This theory would seem to dovetail with the National Review article which presented The Anarchist Cookbook at face value, and even included a patronizing reference to 'the boys at Harvard'. It is well known that W.F. Buckley, the National Review editor, is a Yale graduate and once served the CIA in Mexico. (E. Howard Hunt, of Watergate fame, was CIA paymaster in Mexico City at the same time Buckley served.)

I would like to quote Mr. Powell from the April 12, 1971 issue of Newsweek: "My book places power in the hands of the individual, where it belongs. The right calls it communist, the leftists call it profiteering, the liberals call it Neo-Nazi."

And this reviewer calls it bullshit!

-Esperanza Godot

Esperanza Godot is a nom de guerre of a Conter-Economics Entrepreneur in the Washington-Portland area. Alas, we cannot publish a biography of him, like others in our series, but I'm sure you'll agree he deserves our title of "Libertarian Entrepreneurs! #3."

- Samuel Edward Konkin III.

March 2002, a note from the author Esperanza Godot:

You might want to mention that L-Tryptophan has been taken off the general market by Feds. One batch made in Mexico was contaminated, and they used that as the excuse. It can still be purchased from chemical supply houses (for non-consumption uses) but customer info might be turned over to the feds. Nowadays, people over 40 take melatonin to induce sleep. L-Tryptophan first produces seratonin, causing alertness and happy feeling. In a few hours it turns into melatonin.

2003 Note from the author Esperanza Godot:

The FDA has once again allowed L-Tryptophan to be sold in the U.S.


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